Rep. Witt E-Newsletter May 27, 2015

Volume 9, Number 15

Brad Witt

Newsletter May 27, 2015

Hello Friends,

The House of Representatives considered two bills last week that may directly affect your family.  SB 321A and SB 553A both deal with education, particularly those close-to-home issues surrounding age of attendance and discipline. The bills had already passed the Senate, but the debate was fairly robust when they reached the House floor. Here are the two bills and my take on them…

SB 321A decreases the compulsory school age from seven to six years of age.  Current law requires that children between the ages of seven and eighteen who have not completed the twelfth grade to regularly attend a public school full-time during the school term.  There are, of course, exemptions for those attending private or parochial school, being home schooled, or are otherwise excluded as provided by law. 

On the face of it, this would not seem to be controversial, but at the root of this is who is best able to make the decision as to when a child is ready to begin school full time.  Most of us would agree that it is the parents.  Factors such as maturity, physical development, emotional development or a host of other considerations may convince them that their child would benefit from another year at home, or in kindergarten.   In order to act on those convictions, they would have to go through a process with the local school district that may or may not be successful depending on the outlook of the district. 

My own experience, as well as anecdotal information from others, led me to vote against this bill.  Most parents have only their children’s best interests at heart, and we need to support them and help make the transition from home to school as smooth and uneventful as possible.  The future success of all concerned is at stake, especially our children.

The second bill is SB 553A, imposes limits on the instances when students in fifth grade or lower may be subjected to out-of-school suspension or expulsion from school.  In the hearings on this bill, issues discussed included the history of discipline in Oregon, negative impacts to both the student and the parents, and concern for school staff and the resources available to deal with behavioral issues.  Findings from six Oregon school districts in 2011-2012 indicate that approximately 6.4% of students were suspended or expelled from school, and that nearly 40% of those students received more than one suspension.

When children are disruptive in the classroom, our first inclination is to say that they should be removed, and it may be that removal from that environment is appropriate.  But removal to what, and what is the long term plan for that child?  My concern with SB 553A is that we are telling schools that they must not suspend or expel a child in this age group, but we are offering little else.  We are asking teachers to become therapists in overcrowded classrooms with children who come to them with sometimes serious emotional problems. 

To quote my colleague, Representative Jodi Hack, this bill puts the cart before the horse.  If we want to make sure that children are not expelled or suspended, then we need to offer them the services that will help them to overcome the issues that cause them to disrupt.  My vote against the bill reflected my concern that we are clamping down on the student, the teacher and the school without offering any alternatives that might lead to better outcomes for everyone. 

Yours truly,

Representative Brad Witt
House District 31

Oregon Fire Marshall

Last Wednesday was Oregon State Fire Marshall  (OSFM) day at the Capitol.  Lots of great information was provided to increase awareness. The State Fire Marshall's programs and services include Community Right to Know, Regional Hazard Response, State Emergency Mobilization Plan and Hazard Exercises.  The planning includes a range of natural and man-made disasters from wild land fires to crude oil train derailment. Learn more about programs, services and data available and check out the resources on the OSFM website.  May is Wildfire Awareness Month

In the District:

Scappoose Farmers Market

Scappoose Community Club Farmer's Market  is open for the 13th season! 


May 16th - September 26th.  

9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Hours are extended for community events. Support your local farmers, bakers and makers!

Sacagwea Benefit 2015

Culpepper & Merriweather Circus, sponsored by the South County Chamber of Commerce, comes to Scappoose on June 1st, with shows at 5pm and 7:30pm at the Cinnamon Tree Business Park.  Advance tickets are available, see the link below for more information.  There is also a free “raising the tent” event at 10:30am. South County Chamber of Commerce Event Page.

email: I phone: 503-986-1431
address: 900 Court St NE, H-374, Salem, OR, 97301